Balfour Beatty, in collaboration with Sunbelt and Invisible Systems, has developed a state-of-the-art technology to manage the power supply of site compounds and reduce carbon emissions across its construction sites by up to 80%.
The system, known as EcoNet, works by controlling and reducing the energy output from key appliances in cabins, such as those in kitchens, drying rooms and office spaces.
EcoNet is configured to autonomously manage power demand by automatically turning appliances and equipment off when not in active use. This helps to regulate power consumption during times when demand is highest, such as when site compounds are fully occupied, equipment is being operated and appliances, such as drying rooms and heaters, are in use.
Traditionally, construction sites are powered through connections to the National Grid or with the use of diesel generators. With the use of EcoNet, power demand on the grid or the use of diesel generators is greatly reduced by limiting unnecessary usage, ultimately reducing overall carbon emissions.
The system was first launched in May 2020 on Balfour Beatty’s East Leeds Orbital Route project – the large-scale highways contract to build 7km of outer ring roads around Leeds city centre, easing congestion in residential areas and supporting increased traffic flow from surrounding towns. Within the first six months of use, EcoNet resulted in an 83% reduction in carbon emissions across the site by running on a grid supply, actively managing electric vehicle charging and optimising the heating, hot water and external lighting running schedules.
So far, 21 Balfour Beatty sites are utilising EcoNet, including HS2’s Long Itchington site in Warwickshire, Highways England’s A63 scheme in Hull and Motherwell station redevelopment in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Balfour Beatty plans to roll the system out across 50 live sites by summer 2021 and has committed to installing EcoNet on any new site in the UK with more than six facility cabins. Once fully embedded, it is expected that Balfour Beatty will save a minimum of 2,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, with individual sites reducing their carbon emissions between 30% to 80% of their normal levels.
Kari Sprostranova, Balfour Beatty’s Sustainability Director said: “The construction and infrastructure industry traditionally use a significant amount of energy to deliver large-scale projects shaping the communities in which we live. To counteract this, it is our responsibility to modernise the approach to energy consumption and help to reduce carbon emissions from our operations.
“With solutions such as EcoNet, we can improve our sustainability practices and the impact construction sites have on the environment.”
Jamie Fountain, Sunbelt Rental Account Director for Balfour Beatty said: “We are delighted to partner with Balfour Beatty and Invisible Systems to work on this innovative way of reducing carbon emissions on construction sites.
“Sunbelt Rentals is totally committed to continue working alongside Balfour Beatty, acting responsibly and sustainably and this is one of a number of projects which is an important part of our overarching Sustainability 2025 strategy.”
Pete Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Invisible Systems said:“Invisible Systems are proud to have developed and delivered the solution which enables the construction industry to work towards carbon-neutrality, by leveraging the power of the Internet of Things. The outcomes achieved from our mutual collaboration with Sunbelt & Balfour Beatty will serve as a benchmark throughout the construction sector.”
The EcoNet system contributes to Balfour Beatty’s commitment to sustainability and supports “Building New Futures”, the Group’s refreshed sustainability strategy launched last week, which sets bold 2040 ambitions to Go Beyond Net Zero Carbon, Generate Zero Waste and Positively Impact More than 1 Million People.